Restrictive Labour Laws

Labour Rights Under Attack

227 Restrictive labour laws

In the past three decades Canadians have seen a serious erosion of a fundamental and universal human right, their right to organize into a union and engage in full and free collective bargaining.  Federal and provincial governments have passed numerous labour laws since 1982 that have restricted, suspended or denied collective bargaining rights for Canadian workers.


Title Jurisdiction Type of Legislation Datesort ascending

Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations) (Bill C-377, June)

Bill C-377 forces unions to provide an incredibly onerous level of detailed financial disclosure about their work on behalf of their members. It will require all unions and each of their locals to disclose detailed financial information, such as salaries, supplier contracts, loans, accounts receivables, investments, and spending on organizing, collective bargaining, education, lobbying and all political activities. All this information will be made public on a federal government website. Failure to comply would result in a $1,000/day fine for every day not in compliance.

NOTE: in December 2015, the new federal Liberal government took its first step towards repealing a controversial law by waiving the requirement that unions begin January 2016 publicly disclosing their expenditures to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Federal Government Restrictions on scope of bargaining June 2015

Protecting the School Year Act (Bill 103, May)

The legislation is back-to-work legislation to end strikes at three school boards – the Durham District School Board, the Peel District School Board and the Rainbow District School Board.   It prohibits any strikes or lockouts at the three School Boards in respect of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) central bargaining issues for the duration of the 2014-2015 school year.

With respect to the resolution of the remaining outstanding local issues, Bill 103 establishes a restrictive binding three-person mediation-arbitration process, which will apply separately to each of the three School Boards and their respective local bargaining agents. 

  • The restrictive criteria to be applied by the mediation-arbitration panel established by the Act are as follows:
  • The school board’s ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation.
  • The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the decision or award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.
  • The economic situation in Ontario.
  • A comparison of employees’ terms and conditions of employment and the nature of the work performed, with comparable employees in the public and private sectors.
  • The school board's ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

Ontario Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration May 2015

Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act (Bill100, October)

The legislation allows universities that face severe financial difficulties to implement revitalization plans that suspend collective agreements and ban strikes for up to 18 months.

Nova Scotia Suspension of bargaining rights May 2015

Employees' Voting Rights Act (Bill C-525, December)

This Act amends the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, making it tougher to for workers to join a union under federal jurisdiction and easier to decertify one. The Act removes automatic certification when the majority of workers sign union cards. A certification vote can only take place when 40 percent of the workers sign union cards. It also mandates certification votes in all union drives regardless of whether a majority or even a 100 percent of the workers sign union cards. It also mandates a decertification vote when a member of a bargaining unit claims to represent 40 percent of the bargaining unit members wishing to decertify from the union.


Federal Government Restrictions on certification December 2014

An Act to amend the Labour Code with respect to certain employees of farming businesses (Bill 8, October)

This Act effectively denies workers in small agriculture operations the right to unionize and bargain collectively. The legislation singles out agriculture workers in workplaces where there are less than three full-time employees, allowing only for undefined “associations” which merely have the right to “inform” employers of workplace issues.

This law comes on the heels of a decision by Quebec’s Superior Court in 2013 that found sections of the Quebec Labour Code allowing for the exclusion of agriculture workers from the right to organize to be unconstitutional. The former PQ government did not appeal the Court's decision. Shortly after the current Liberal government was elected, it circumvented the Superior Court's decision by introducing Bill 8. The Act is modeled after the Ontario Agricultural Employees’ Protection Act, which was found not to violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the controversial Supreme Court of Canada Fraser decision released April 2011.

Quebec Denial of right to join a union October 2014

Health Authorities Act, 2014 (Bill 1, October)

This Act denies 24,000 health care workers the freedom to choose the union they want to represent them.   The legislation limits the number of bargaining units in the health sector to four province-wide units and states that each of the current four unions in the health care sector - the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor - can only represent one the four new bargaining units.  It basically defines which units the members will belong and does not allow run off votes in which members would have an opportunity to vote for the union of their choice.  The Act has the effect of carving out 8,200 NSGEU members into the other three unions.  It does provides for an extremely restricitve 90 day mediation / arbitration process, however the results of that process appear to be predetermined by the legislation. The Act prohibits applications for certification, decertification and displacement of one union for another. Not only will employees have no say in the selection of the union to represent them, they will never be able to change that union.

NOTE: Bill 69, An Act to Amend Chapter 32 of the Acts of 2014, the Health Authorities Act, passed April 1, 2015,  repealed all the anti-democratic measures in Bill 1 and restructures health care labour relations to allow for four Council of Unions (similar to the BC bargaining associations model) whereby each of the health care unions will maintain their membership, while four new health care Councils of Unions will become the certified bargaining agent.  The four Councils of Unions will be:  nurses, health care professionals, health care support and health care administration.



Nova Scotia Restrictions on scope of bargaining October 2014

An Act to Amend the Labour Relations Act, 2014 (Bill 22, June)

This Act reverses the progressive amendments made to the Labour Relations Act in June 2012 (Bill 37) which provided for automatic card-check certification when 65 percent of workers in a workplace sign union carrds.  It amends the certification process back to the pre-2012 amendments, requiring a certification vote regardless of evidence that a clear majority of workers in a workplace signed a union card stating their desire to be represented by a union.

Newfoundland and Labrador Restrictions on certification June 2014

Essential Health and Community Services Act (Bill 37, April)

The Act provides for a broad definition of essential services encompassing some 35,000 public employees who work in a range of occupations including nurses, hospital support workers, group home workers, home care workers, ambulance dispatchers and paramedics.  It mandates that essential services agreements be negotiated prior to any strike action through a process that is heavily weighted in favour of the employer. A union may apply to the Labour Relation Board for arbitration if it feels that the level of employees designated essential is so high that it has the effect of depriving employees of a meaningful right to strike.  If arbitration is granted, the Minister of Labour has the right to choose the method.  However the independence of whatever method is chosen by the Minister is undermined as the arbitrator is forced consider “the employer's ability to pay in light of the fiscal position of the government” in making an award.

Nova Scotia Restrictions on scope of bargaining April 2014

Essential Home-support Services (2014) Act (Bill 30, March)

The legislation ended a two-day strike of some 500 home care workers and forced the workers' unions and their employers to negotiate an essential services agreement prior to the commencement of a strike or lock out.  If the union and the employer are unable to agree to an essential services agreement, the dispute will be referred to the Labour Relations Board to settle the provisions of such an agreement.

Nova Scotia Suspension of bargaining rights March 2014

Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-4, December)

Sections of this 321-page omnibus federal budget legislation (2013) gives the federal government, as the employer, the unfettered right to decide what work is considered “essential” and how many and which workers are required to accomplish this work during a strike. It allows the federal government to increase the number of essential employees at any point in the bargaining process, even during a strike.

The arbitration option is removed for all bargaining units except those where 80 per cent of employees perform work that has been designated “essential” by the employer. Groups that do not meet the 80 per cent threshold are automatically put on the conciliation-strike route. In the few cases where arbitration will be allowed, the process will no longer be independent of government. Arbitrators will be limited to consider only two factors: recruitment and retention, and the government’s fiscal circumstances relative to its budgetary policies.

Federal Government Restrictions on scope of bargaining December 2013